Review! Judge Daryl Loomis versus thirty hours of anime!
Our reviews of Anime Essentials: Slayers The Motion Picture (published October 14th, 2004), Slayers Excellent (published April 29th, 2004), Slayers Gorgeous (published May 7th, 2004), Slayers Movie Box (published October 20th, 2005), and Slayers Premium (published June 3rd, 2004) are also available.
Where monsters rampage, I'm there to take them down. Where treasure glitters, I'm there to claim it! Where an enemy rises to face me, victory will be mine!
Sorceress extraordinaire Lina Inverse minds her own business, killing bandits and collecting treasure. It's just another day at the office for the most powerful woman in the world, but trouble always seems to track her down. You'd think these baddies would learn that all Lina has to do is cast her Dragon Slave spell and they'll be toast, yet they come to pester her anyway. This twelve disc set, comprising the first three seasons of The Slayers anime series, features Lina Inverse and her motley crew of adventurers as they head through the world hunting down fabulous treasures and, when there's a reward, stopping dastardly villains, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake.
The Slayers—Lina's diminutive body belies her powerful magic so, when she runs afoul of some bandits in the woods, it's only natural for do-gooder swordsman Gourry comes to her rescue. Lina doesn't need him, and he causes more trouble than he solves, but he's so well-meaning that, when he vows to be her protector, she can hardly say no. So off they go, with Gourry getting in her way while trying to help her collect treasure. Soon, they're accosted by a bunch of crazy people looking for an item that Lina possesses. When she finds out that they intend to use the item to summon the Dark Lord Shabranigdo to take over the world, she gets the chance to show Gourry the true extent of her power.
The Slayers: Next—After the violence in the aftermath of their previous adventures, Lina, Gourry, and the friends they met along the way are just hanging out, relaxing on vacation. Money and power are strong draws for Lina Inverse, so her ears perk up when one of her cohorts mentions the possibility of finding the Clair Bible. This document contains information that could potentially save many lives but, more importantly, it also contains a spell even more powerful than the Dragon Slave.
The Slayers: Try—The events of the previous season have, somehow, opened a dimensional hole that leads to a complete other world, one that has barely heard of magic. The lure of exploration is too much to resist, so Lina and friends travel there to see what kind of riches they can find. In their search, they come upon a plot to take over the world and restart an ancient war between the monsters and the gods. Plus, Lina has a sister, and she's more scared of her than of any of the dangers she's faced yet.
Lina Inverse is loud, crass, violent, and lacks any kind of common sense, but she's the perfect lead character for the irreverent anime series The Slayers. If anyone else fronted the group, the series would have sunk into obnoxiously cutsie sweetness, but the focus on Lina keeps these elements, which are very much at work here, at an arm's length, using them for the comedy and not for the driving action. The Slayers constantly winks at the audiences, acknowledging and subverting the cliches already deeply ingrained in anime when this series began in 1996. From the opening title songs into the first moments of the premiere episode, we can see how seriously they take themselves. The song lyrics about how Lina's eyes are so big that she must be unstoppable and Gourry's first exchange with Lina about how her breasts are much too small for her to be a powerful anime heroine, the creators use the conventions to poke fun at themselves and the genre. There's a lot of cultural humor here, as well, shown in the hilarious Iron Chef parody about the history of "Dragon Cuisine" in The Slayers: Next. As a Westerner, however, much of this humor is lost on me, but those which I can understand come off very well.
The characters may be overblown and silly much of the time, but they really step up when it comes to the action. The fight scenes are frequent and fast-paced sword and sorcery battles, varying in length from a minute to giant, multi-episode wars. That variance, as well as the constant insertion of comedy into the scenes, keeps the series unpredictable, but grounded in the treasure/justice motives of the characters. That grounding makes the first two seasons compelling while the third, though it begins with a similar framework, goes straight off the deep end. That's not a bad thing, necessarily; by the end of two full seasons of questing, the characters seemed stretched about as far as they could go and I began to notice more than a little repetition. The third season's inclusion of dimensional hopping, man/fish love, and a talking pig in a Playboy Bunny outfit throw the viewers for a loop. It eventually settles down in a mostly satisfying conclusion, but it goes much farther down the road to insanity than its predecessors, which is why it is my favorite of the group.
These twelve discs come from Funimation in a good-looking box inside a slipcase. Though it's handsomely designed, however, there may be durability problems with the six thick trays bound inside of cardboard. It's a lot for that binding to handle and I don't think the glue is going to hold. The image and sound are both adequate, but identical to the series 1996-1998 broadcasts. Colors in the full frame transfer are bright, but it definitely looks like it comes from television. The sound mix isn't much better; clear, but unspectacular. The Japanese audio is in stereo, while the English only gets mono. The Japanese is superior, both in performance and sound quality, however the English subtitles make little sense. I tried with the Japanese for a few episodes, but was so confused that I gave up and started rewatching from the beginning in English. The extras appear on the fourth disc of each season, but there's nothing to write home about here. The usual Funimation supplements of textless songs and trailers.
The Slayers is a very good show, full of comedy and quality fantasy actions. It's a lot to watch, but it's worth it. If you have the sets that were previously released, however, The Slayers: The First Three Seasons holds nothing compelling to rebuy.
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